Only in Jersey: 3/9/12

TGIF! Time for another edition of Only in Jersey!

If it’s filming in Jersey, takes place in Jersey, or is about celebs from Jersey, you will find it here.

Chaz Brown: Hope he's good at juggling.

Jerseyans and reality shows go together like, well, peas and carrots. Case in point: A “Top Chef: Texas” contestant (who was eliminated in the qualifying rounds) from Voorhees will compete in Bravo’s latest food-based competition, “Around the World in 80 Plates,” beginning Wednesday, May 9. Chaz Brown, the chef de cuisine at New York’s Fatty Crab, will battle against 11 experienced cooks in culinary challenges across the globe. The show, which is hosted by Curtis Stone and Cat Cora, sounds like a combination of “Top Chef” and CBS’ “The Amazing Race.” Here’s hoping the French Culinary Institute grad never hears the unfortunate words, “I’m sorry to tell you, but you’ve been eliminated from the race.”

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Kate Gosselin’s career makeover: Meet William Shatner

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After seeing Kate Gosselin’s (funny!) performance in the opening skit of the Emmys last night, I have a suggestion for her: Start making fun of yourself on a regular basis. You know… like William Shatner.

Seriously, the dude has turned goofing on himself into an art form… and he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

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“As The World Turns”: Thanks for the memories

2009 has been a banner – oops, I mean bummer – of a year for me.

2009? See ya later!

First off, I turned 40.

Blech.

But the powers that be decided that scary number wasn’t enough of a reminder for me that I’m getting O-L-D. Oh, no.

A month before my big 4-0, Michael Jackson died. One of the biggest entertainers of all time – and perhaps the biggest symbol of my generation – gone. Poof.

And now, as 2009 draws to a close, comes the disturbing news that another fond memory of my teen-dom is biting the dust:

The daytime soap opera “As the World Turns” – which has been turning for a whopping 54 years – has been canceled by CBS.

Be still my beating heart.

Though I haven’t watched “ATWT” in probably about 20 years, this news still pains me. I have many fond memories of the residents of Oakdale, Ill.: Holden, Lily, Dusty, Craig, Lucinda, Iva and Josh/Rod, to name but a few. The show launched the successful careers of several actors, including Meg Ryan, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Parker Posey and William Fichtner, all of whom were on the show when I watched it.

And I’ll never forget my wonderful yet all-too-brief correspondence with one of its biggest stars of the ’80s: Frank Runyeon. Frank played Steve Andropoulos, a hot-to-trot Greek whose romance with Betsy Stewart drove fans wild. Betsy, by the way, was initially played by none other than the adorable Meg Ryan (from 1982-1984). Lindsay Frost took over the role from 1984 to 1988 (according to Wikipedia).

Frank sent me this autographed photo (note my name at the top- yay!) during our brief correspondence in 1986./Photo by Ava Gacser

But I digress. My correspondence with Frank began as an assignment for my journalism class at Franklin High School. I was a junior at the time and a staff writer for the school newspaper, The Beacon. I remember our teacher, Mrs. Fama, instructing us to write letters to celebrities requesting interviews. I was amazed when Frank actually wrote me back and suggested we be pen pals.

This is the final letter Frank wrote me, dated October 1986, in which he let me know he was leaving "As The World Turns."/Photo by Ava Gacser

I received six letters from Frank – all of them typed (I recall hearing somewhere he was a quick typist!) – beginning in March 1986 and ending in October. Even cooler, he composed each one on the back of “ATWT” scripts!  Check it out:

This page from an "As The World Turns" script includes scenes with Steve, Betsy, Lily, Lucinda and Sierra./Photo by Ava Gacser

By now you might be thinking that there’s actually no Jersey connection to this story. But that’s where you’d be wrong:  Frank is a Princeton University graduate!

And my Jersey love for “ATWT” doesn’t end there, no sirree. When Jon Hensley came along – playing the “buck naked” bad boy Holden Snyder opposite Martha Byrne’s sweet-as-pie Lily Walsh – I was head over heels. So imagine my teenage reaction when I discovered that Jon was going to appear at the opening of the Wick Plaza strip mall in Edison, N.J.!

"As The World Turns" star Jon Hensley signed autographs for fans at the grand opening of Wick Plaza in Edison, N.J., on April 30, 1988./Photo by Ava Gacser

In addition to meeting Jon (a Browns Mills native) and snapping some great pictures like the one above at the event, I also got this autographed photo of him.

Another personally autographed photo. Score!/Photo by Ava Gacser

In case you haven’t read between the lines yet, “ATWT” is responsible for awakening my teenage lust. And with these hot actors – and their relatively close proximity to me – how could it not?

Alas, as the ’80s turned into the ’90s, my interest in “ATWT’ waned. But even though 20+ years (good grief!) have passed since my obsession with the show, I still remember it fondly and am sorry to see it go.

(In fact, to this day, every time I drive down Route 1 in North Brunswick and pass the Oakdale Mobile Home Park, I think of the show.)

Fortunately, I have all of these great experiences and memories to hold on to. Thanks, “As The World Turns.”

“Medium” gives us a night (of the dead) to remember

When Jake Weber’s character on “Medium,” Joe Dubois, referred to George Romero’s zombie flick “Dawn of the Dead” on last week’s episode (which cleverly inserted Joe’s wife, Allison, into the original “Night of the Living Dead”), the significance definitely wasn’t lost on me.

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more about “Medium Video – Bite Me – CBS.com“, posted with vodpod

In a slick nod to the brilliantly good 2004 remake of the film – which just happens to star Jake – his character off-handedly says, “That’s not the one where everyone gets trapped in the mall, are they?”

Why yes, Joe, it is. The film, which also stars Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames, follows a small group of people who barricade themselves inside a mall as the world is quickly taken over by the undead.

Here’s the trailer from the film (look closely for Jake), and if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend you do:

“Jon & Kate Plus 8”: Aunt Jodi and Uncle Kevin go on the offensive

Kate Gosselin’s brother, Kevin Kreider, and his wife Jodi appeared on CBS’ “The Early Show” today to express their concerns about the welfare of their nieces and nephews.

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more about “‘Jon & Kate’ Brother & Sister-In-Law:…“, posted with vodpod

As Kevin told interviewer Harry Smith, “We want to be the voices of our nieces and nephews. And we’re seeing it turn tide that they’re being viewed as a commodity… They’re being exploited.”

“…These children are very aware of the cameras in their homes,” Jodi added. “Their home is their workplace. And this is not a healthy environment for kids to be raised in.”

Jodi said that Jon and Kate are both “very lost right now.”

“They’re blinded by all of this media and this – you know – the fame and the fortune,” she said.

Then Harry Smith asked the million dollar question: “Could they walk – do you think they could walk away (from doing the show)?”

“No. No. No,” Jodi replied.

Huffington Post has the complete transcript of the interview.

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